History Of Masroor Temple
There was a period of geopolitical instability across the Indian subcontinent between the 12th and 19th centuries, primarily attributed to religious wars, even though the literature of this period does not mention Masrur temples or any other Hindu, Jain, or Buddhist temples. Instead, they discussed iconoclasm and temple destruction. There is a great deal of antiquity in the region surrounding the temple. During ancient times, the temple complex belonged to the ‘Trigarta’ or ‘Jalandhar’ Kingdom, mentioned in the Mahabharata and the works of Pāṇini (linguistic standards for Classical Sanskrit).
The famous Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang visited the kingdom on his way to the Kullu Valley in 635 CE and wrote about its great prosperity. For many centuries the Kangra valley region with Masroor temple in the Himalayas was surrendered to the forests, where they lay hidden and known only to the locals. Masroor temples in Kangra look a lot like Ajanta-Ellora temples, according to an Austrian explorer who visited this temple in 1835. A European traveler wrote about this temple in 1875, but the British government didn’t pay much attention.
By the late 19th century, British Indian officials had begun archeological surveys and heritage preservation efforts. In 1887, a study of the Masrur temples took place. The Kangra earthquake in 1905 tragically destroyed the temple complex before preserving it. A British official named Shuttleworth visited and photographed the temple complex in 1913, intending to bring it to the attention of archaeologists, calling it a “Vaishnava temple” (the carvings on the temple show vaishnavite influence) and claiming in his report that he was the first European to visit. He wrote a paper on the temple complex, which appeared in the journal The Indian Antiquary. He shared his findings with Harold Hargreaves, an officer of the Northern Circle of the Archaeology Survey of India. Harold Hargreaves knew more about Hindu theology, noticed the Shiva linga in the sanctum, and corrected Shuttleworth.
The temple complex was surveyed independently by Harold Hargreaves, who published his photographs and observations in 1915 as a part of the ASI Annual Report Volume 20. Hargreaves acknowledged the discovery that a draftsman in his office had already toured, measured, and created temple plans and sections in 1887. Hargreaves described the site as a complex of individual shrines. Still, it’s a composite of temples with one single integrated monument, including iconography from different Hindu traditions, suggested connections with Mahabalipuram monuments and Gandhara art, and mentioned other theories. Reporters with little or no background knowledge of Indian temple traditions or Hindu theology used Hargreaves’ text as an introduction to Masrur temples. Michael Meister, an art historian and a professor specializing in Indian Temple Architecture, describes the Masrur temples as a surviving example of a mountain-style architectural Hindu temple. The iconography of the temples is still surviving, but most of Masroor’s temple sculptures and reliefs have disappeared. They were also quite damaged, most likely from the Kangra earthquake in 1905.
1905 Kangra Earthquake Damage
The right-hand section of the temple complex was damaged, with a reflection in the sacred pool. While the temple complex had fallen to ruin in the late 19th century, it was still in decent condition. As a result of the 1905 Kangra earthquake, much of the Himachal valley region’s ancient monuments, such as Kangra Fort and Masroor Temple, were destroyed. Due to its monolithic nature and construction out of stone in situ, the Masrur temple stood despite cracks and tumbling parts.
The careful measurements and drawings made by the unknown draftsperson in 1887, particularly of the roof level and mandapa that suffered damage in the 1905 earthquake, have been significant sources of scholarship into the late 20th century. The damage from wars and the 1905 earthquake in the region has made comparative studies difficult. It supports Shuttleworth’s early comments that the temple complex has a “perfect symmetry of design.”